Authorities to reveal results of investigation into how Colorado’s worst wildfire started

DENVER (AP) — Authorities say they have completed their investigation into what started the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history and will announce their findings Thursday.

The fire destroyed nearly 1,100 homes as high winds pushed it through the heavily populated suburbs between Denver and Boulder on December 30, 2021. Two people were found dead in what is known as the Marshall Fire .

Hell erupted after months of drought amid a nearly snowless winter and fed on dry grasslands around a fast-growing development in the region near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Winds blew up to 100 mph (160 km/h) in places.

The fire that destroyed swathes of homes in the towns of Superior and Louisville, neighboring towns about 20 miles northwest of Denver, is responsible for the death of a 69-year-old man who lived near where investigators believed the fire started. . The remains of a 91-year-old woman, who was last seen rescuing her dogs from her home in Superior, have also been found.

Thousands of residents were at home on New Year’s Eve and used the suburb’s extensive road network to escape amid smoke, flames and embers that spread the fire in the wind. The shifting winds swept the skies from clear to smoky, then back to an area filled with middle- and upper-class subdivisions surrounded by malls, parks and schools.

As smoke filled the parking lot of a Costco warehouse store and debris swirled around, the sheriff’s deputy ordered those inside to leave their carts, evacuate the sprawling building and head to Denver , away from the fire. Within hours, it destroyed 1,084 homes and seven commercial buildings and damaged nearly 200 structures. An estimate in 2022 puts the damage at at least $513 million.

Experts say similar occurrences will become more frequent as climate change warms the planet and suburbs expand in fire-prone areas.

The blaze, which spanned 24 square kilometers, is the most destructive in state history in terms of homes and other structures destroyed and damaged. The second most destructive fire broke out in 2013 outside Colorado Springs, destroying 489 homes and killing two.

Authorities have yet to release details of what started the fire. At first, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said investigators limited their search for the origin of the fire to an area south of Boulder, where a passerby captured video of a shed in fire. Since then, the sheriff’s office has only said it is investigating old coal mines smoldering underground, power lines and human activity among possible causes of the fire.

The area includes an abandoned coal deposit where two underground fires, fueled by coal deposits, have slowly burned over the years.

Authorities said early on that the area they were examining included properties occupied by members of the Twelve Tribes – a Christian religious community believed to have 2,000 to 3,000 members worldwide – but said it was not the sole purpose of the investigation.

A lawsuit filed against Colorado’s largest utility, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, alleged that sparks from a power line started the fire. It says witnesses saw a fire ignite near a power line in the area identified by investigators, with one witness filming sparks from a faulty power line and igniting a fire on the ground.

Xcel said its investigation revealed that company equipment in the area of ​​the fire was properly maintained and inspected.

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